Knowle relocation: EDDC holds successful stakeholder event
Friday 26 July
OVER 30 people attended a district-wide event held today (Friday) to brief local organisations and stakeholders about East Devon District Council’s relocation plans.
They heard the rationale for the Cabinet and Full Council decisions to explore options outside Sidmouth because staying at the current headquarters building at Knowle is not considered viable. They were later able to comment and ask questions.
The event on 26 July was held at the Flybe Training Academy and a wide range of organisations were represented including town and parish councils, chambers of commerce, community organisations, neighbouring local authorities and pressure groups.
Delegates were welcomed to the event by Council Leader Paul Diviani, who outlined the financial pressures that EDDC faces, the unsustainable costs associated with running Knowle and the services and customer benefits that the Council is seeking to achieve through relocation.
“Councils are facing an unprecedented level of cuts in their finances as part of the efforts to reduce government borrowing,” said Cllr Diviani. “We have to make sure that we focus precious resources on delivering services to our residents. Our current offices are a drain on our finances. A new purpose built office will allow us to be more effective and efficient so we can deliver top quality services at a price we can afford”.
Deputy Chief Executive Richard Cohen then outlined the principles the council was working to. Namely that any:
•Move to new offices would place no extra burden on Council Tax payers
•New buildings will be flexible, fit for purpose and meet the highest possible energy efficiency standards
•New offices will be accessible and the Council will develop new ways of working to allow customers to access services in the way that suits them best
•New office building/accommodation will maximise the use of space and technology for the benefit of customers and the productive working of staff and councillors.
His slide presentation then went on to cover all the different options that the Council had considered for relocation and why EDDC’s Cabinet had decided that staying at Knowle is not a viable option. The Cabinet decision was endorsed at Full Council on Wednesday 24 July.
Richard Cohen demonstrated the high running costs of the current buildings at Knowle. He then explained how different options for Knowle had been considered and why none of them would produce enough money to pay for new accommodation. This is because all the options would be a mix of council offices, council parking and housing which are not anywhere near as commercially attractive to developers as a residential-only site would be.
Options for Honiton and Cranbrook were then examined, showing the different potential sites and looking at some of the advantages and disadvantages of each. Mr Cohen confirmed that any new offices will be smaller, flexible and more energy efficient as well as offering better access for customers and delivering a modern working environment for staff and councillors.
He outlined the next steps, which included doing more detailed work on the different Honiton and Cranbrook options and opening negotiations on the various sites. The timescale for a report back to Cabinet was confirmed as around the end of the year, with any potential move scheduled for July 2016.
Mr Cohen emphasised that the Council was committed to keeping key stakeholders abreast of the decision making process and progress of the project through a district-wide stakeholder group which would meet at points during the project.
The Council’s clear commitment to equalities was underlined and it was noted that there would be an equalities impact assessment and consultation with equalities partners, particularly through the design phase of the new building.
Delegates were then asked to consider what they thought were most important issues for the Council to keep in mind during any move to new offices and what opportunities might there be to improve services as part of the move. There was considerable discussion of this and the feedback broadly fell into five areas:-
•Creating easy access in person by public transport and enough parking for those who might need to drive
•Delivering new office accommodation should be about new ways of working not just money
•Having more mobile staff, service surgeries and working more closely with town councils
•Delivering more online services and modern customer facilities for those who want to have a face to face discussion
•Keeping people informed of progress
In his closing remarks, Paul Diviani thanked delegates for their contributions. He said he was inspired by the enthusiasm shown by people and their desire to seek the best solution for the district.
Questions and answers from the session will be made available on the Council’s website in due course.East Devon District Council - News